Biera wins over tastebuds with big flavours and local brews
Since it opened its doors last year, Biera has been a going concern on the Edmonton food and drink scene—almost certainly not the kind of place you could casually drop by around supper time and expect to be seated right away. The big brick-lined room with a double-high ceiling and the gleaming tanks of Blind Enthusiasm Brewing encased in glass on the north and west walls seems to fill up quickly.
By way of consolation you can sit outside in the Ritchie Market common area and nurse a fresh-made cold one while waiting for chairs to free up. Accolades have followed quickly; just this month one glossy local lifestyle publication proclaimed Biera as Edmonton’s best new restaurant.
Which is to say the menu is not just a pat, fried-and-salted enticement to drink more beer, but the product of thoughtful, imaginative deliberation embroidering bold flavours with elegant nuance that leaves you not knowing quite what to expect no matter what you order. It just makes sense to wash it down with a flight of Blind Enthusiasm’s varied beer styles—a few ounces each of their coppery lager, wheat beer with phantom fruit and spice aromas, a light-bodied ale with tea-like bitterness, and a strong red ale will run you $8.
That depth and originality of the fare almost leave you at a loss for where to start, even if you arrive too late to try the snacks and you leave aside the extensive selection of cheeses. Maybe you’ll want to try Biera’s crusty, spongy sourdough ($12), not least because you can use it to mop up your plate throughout the meal. In a foretaste of the menu’s attention to detail, the bread comes with both creamy kefir butter drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and salty whipped lardo topped with crisped crumbs.
Our server said the plates were made for sharing, so we decided to split the boudin noir sausage ($16) by way of an appetizer. The dark sausage in question is uncased, coarse and falling apart over a slather of brown butter with a layer of diaphanous pink lady apple slices on top and a strew of fragrant rosehips and sour oxalis. It’s velvety and earthy as only something made with blood can be, with a charred undertone playing against velvety smoothness and assertive garlic. The tart-sweet al dente apple slices and floral accents were the perfect foil to all that richness.
Before long, the bok choy ($17) arrived with just enough of a head-start on the pork shoulder ($28) that we had a chance to divvy up the veggies. Looking at it, it was hard to take in what all was going on with the tangle of grill-marked bok choy and microgreens seriously lavished with black and white sesame seeds and toasted hazelnuts, but it turned out there was a generous glob of smoked buttermilk cheese underneath, slowly sinking in a thick pool of black sesame sauce. This was co-diner’s favourite dish of the night—the smoky cheese might have had something to do with it, though the leafy bok choy was perfectly done, lending crunch and the juiciness to all that umami.
It seemed like serendipity that the grilled pork shoulder coincided with the last beer of my flight, as its salty savour—magnified by the sweet, chewy roasted beets on the side—paired nicely with the big flavour of the hoppy, high-test ACME Red. Citrusy sparkles of lemon balm further scintillated the palate.
We did not need dessert, but we went ahead and ordered the Citra-hopped pear sorbet ($9) expecting some dainty crystal with a ping pong ball of fruited ice in it. But the dessert felt substantial, a sizable scoop of the well calibrated sorbet, pear perfume and lemony hop in perfect balance, over slices of poached Bosc pear, with diaphanous apple slices and a stiff dose of matcha powder. It would have been refreshing if we weren’t already so sated, but it was at least delicious, excess of matcha notwithstanding.
Somehow all that food and drink—all those flavours, really—came in just under a hundred bucks, which felt like money well spent. Food-and-drink empires in Edmonton have been built on less than Biera’s top-flight eats and tipples, but until they decide to start propagating over the map, reservations are a likely requisite for the foreseeable future.
9570 – 76 Ave.